ACL Festival: Spoon vs The Replacements

The Replacements Perform At Metro StudiosACL Festival is only a week away, so those browsing their schedule have probably started to realize there are some huge conundrums.  Who do you go see when two great bands are going head to head? The biggest “oh my god what were they thinking” moment comes with the battle to see Spoon vs. The Replacements.  Yes, Spoon is riding high after a great album this year, and they’ve got a historically strong draw in Austin.  That alone warrants them a viewing.  But, but, BUT!!! They’re playing on Sunday against legendary act, The Replacements.  Yes, you might not get the original line-up, and you might get the rumored Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) helping out, but dammit if you don’t want to miss this set.  No offense to Spoon, but they’ll be around for some time to come; I might not, however, ever get the chance to see The Replacements again…and I’ll cry if they play the tune below.  So what is one to do? Current hit-makers vs. legendary band? There’s only one choice.

My winner for this battle is The Replacements. One could even propose the idea that without one, the other wouldn’t exist.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/05-Androgynous.mp3]

Download: The Replacements – Androgynous [MP3]

Spoon – They Want My Soul

spoon-they_want_my_soul-608x608

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Over the years, these Austinites have gone from local darlings to nationally successful rock stars. They’ve given us gems of albums like Gimme Fiction, and 2007’s brilliant Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which still holds its charm seven years later. Though when frontman Britt Daniel appeared in a new form with his side project, Divine Fits, I thought perhaps Spoon was done for, or at least on the backburner. They Want My Soul proves this theory to be utterly incorrect, and has this band back and at the top of their game.

Though on Transference we heard Spoon step away from the openly bombastic pop rock that they had previously ruled, here we get a return to this style, but with a new twist of sleek and extra-cool, and the singles that the band has already promoted with music videos are only the tip of the iceberg. “Do You,” has the obvious chorus repetition but is complimented by all the subtleties and nuances to offset this—like the fast word slinging, the little “do”s, and synth presence to end it gracefully. “Inside Out,” which Daniel calls “the most beautiful thing [they’ve] done,” is dominated by electronic elements; synth riffs and patterns that scatter and explode in different directions while the vocals are soft and half-falsetto for a large portion of the song. It’s a simple yet elegant number that feels mature and streamlined.

For me, while I’m digging all the songs on this record, the tracks build on each other and get more interesting as the album progresses, as a great album should. The last two songs, “Let Me Be Mine” and “New York Kiss,” give the album an ending sleek and smooth ending and makes you want to instantly start again from the beginning. “Let Me Be Mine” has Daniel giving you some advice about love, some acoustic guitar, handclap-esque rhythm and campy piano from the start, before it jumps into its full scale with electric guitar. It has this driving rhythm that propels the whole tune, but the guitars all scream the blues, as Daniel’s raspy drawl screams along too. Frankly, it’s an addicting tune and when I first heard it, I immediately had to listen several times before moving on to the next.

The album comes to a close with “New York Kiss,” ending on a nostalgic yet fast pace, which is the general emotion that worms its way in and out of the whole record via several elements and layers. Each song fits into the next, and on the whole complimenting each other. They Want My Soul feels like a natural and right step for this band, one that I’ve had a blast listening to. They combine the outright gritty alternative rock and roll of their past with a newfound texture of polish and gloss. Have a listen—these old dogs aren’t done learning new tricks.

 

Show Pics: Spoon @ Hotel Vegas (5/6)

Spoon - David Hall for CoSBonus coverage!

We have a little guest photo action for you today. Friend of the program, David Hall, was on the list for the random Spoon show at Hotel Vegas the other night. Just so happens, he needed an assist due to scheduling issues, so my camera was able to attend as his +1.

Allegedly, it was an hour of the hits and no new stuff. Sounds like a good way to knock the rust off the band. Comedians get to work over new material in clubs, so should bands. Head past the break to see a few sweet photos by D. Hall.

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Divine Fits – A Thing Called the Divine Fits

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When there is a collision of famous indie artists, it’s not really an exaggeration to say that the internet world blows up a bit. So a few months back when this project between Indie darlings Dan Boekner, Britt Daniels, Sam Brown and Alex Fischel came to the surface everyone was abuzz with excitement for their debut album. As a fan of Spoon and Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs, the main projects of which Daniels and Boekner are frontmen, I jumped right on the excited bandwagon. How could this much creative genius combine to equal something less than amazing?

First up on the album is the much hyped single “My Love is Real,” which features Boekner taking the lead on vocals and a heavy amount of synthesizer and other electronic sounds. It’s an interesting start, as it is a pretty straightforward song, lyrically and sonically. You have the steady drum machine beats, some thick synth lines and Boekner iterating that “[his] love is real…until it stops;” a tangible one liner that can get itself stuck in your head for hours at a time. Next up is “Flaggin’ a Ride,” on which Daniels takes vocal lead. Noticeably, it sounds a lot more like Spoon, as the first song exhibited signs of Handsome Furs. Apart from the vocal similarities, you have the signature guitar lines that takeover the song and the overall rockier sounding song.

The album progresses gradually, with most of the tracks ringing true to their titles, which are often repeated quite frequently. Another standout, and perhaps the most cohesive song for this group comes on “Baby Get Worse,” on which Boekner has the lead in the beginning and the focus is strong on synth lines and buzzing beats. However, instead of leaving on a one note status, a break comes late in the song with electric guitar surging through with Daniels shortly following, giving it the magic touch of both of these guys. “Shivers” also possesses such a factor of intrigue as “Baby Get Worse,” despite it being an altogether Spoon-ish sounding effort. The lyrics on this ninth track walk a bit on the somber side, but are no less than the brilliance that we’ve all come to know, doling out lines like “my baby’s so vein she’s almost a mirror,” and other quirky darkness that adds to the overall appeal of the Divine Fits.

While this is by no means a bad album, it is a bit of a disappointing one. I was expecting the powers that combined on this work to be greater than the sum of their parts, culminating to an excellent new super group I could get behind. However, A Thing Called the Divine Fits comes across as a mixture of slightly altered songs from the original bands of these gentlemen, but when it’s such talented artists, who’s really complaining?

New Jam from Robbers On High Street

I always felt like Robbers on High Street were a vastly underrated band, but I’m pleased to let you know that regardless of the trials of a modern indie band, they’ve continued to work hard.  Late last year they released Hey There Golden Hair, but now they’re already back with an EP titled Anything Could Happen.  If you’re looking for modern touchstones for comparison then perhaps Spoon would do, but RoHS has a much more complex sound in my opinion, at least in so far as they’ve got a fuller sound.  Some bands never get the love they deserve, but staying true to themselves will always reap great rewards, which is the case with this new EP.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/02-Anything-Could-Happen.mp3]

Download:Robbers On High Street – Anything Could Happen [MP3]

Light for Fire – s/t

Rating: ★★★★½

At this point in time, there probably aren’t too many people familiar with the Portland outfit, Light for Fire.  Honestly, that’s probably the biggest tragedy we’ll come across, as their self-titled debut is chocked full of brilliant pop moments, fusing moments of great indie-pop with arrangements created by a singer-songwriter format.  It’s just flat out golden.

You’re going to struggle to find as good a one-two punch as the opening tracks on Light for Fire this year.  “The Huckster” appeals to those interested in the craftsmanship of a singer/songwriter, with the majority of the song revolving around strummed guitar and J. Nicholas Allard’s great vocal performance. From here the band joins Allard with the stomper, “NY (By the Hand),” which is in the running for one of the greater tracks of the year.  There’s a hint of a scratch to Allard’s voice, but with the banging piano and his storytelling, there’s not much that sounds better coming through your stereo speakers.

If you’re looking for some sort of generic marker to throw at Light for Fire, you’ll easily find comparisons to Spoon.  But, that being said, the band has cleaned up some of the noisy meandering that’s been associated with Spoon, instead allowing the poppier side to push on through.  Take “The Letters,” and you’ll have that semi-stomp, with Allard doing his best to give that scratchy croon perfected by Britt Daniels.  Even “Green Life” seems to take a bit from the comparison, using hints of piano to craft their tune, reminiscent of some of the singles off GaGaGaGaGaGa.  This isn’t a bad comparison, as few people write great pop numbers in the vein of Spoon. But, I suppose someone’s bound to get caught up in the similarities.

But, the more you listen to these eleven tracks, the more you see the band has definitely attached themselves to the songwriting of Allard, and rightfully so. “Where I Was Born” is a track for storytellers, with the narrator giving a brief summation of his life.  There’s restraint in the guitar playing, that is until the band jumps in, making it a passionate Americana rocker. And with “4th of July,” you get a quiet number that evokes other songwriters from the Portland area.  Allard’s voice takes on a more gentle quality, and the guitar lines barely trickle into your ear.

One of the best things you can do for your day is to get your hands on this wonderful effort by Light For Fire.  Yes, there’s touchstones of modern indie stars, but beneath those allusions lives great songwriting.  It’s executed to perfection, providing listeners with eleven tracks, not one of which begs to be skipped. For a band seemingly coming out of nowhere, this is the perfect place to start.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/nybythehand.mp3]

Download: Light for Fire – NY (By the Hand) [MP3]

Friday Top 10: Austin Albums of 2010

It’s that time of year folks, the time when we THINK we know what’s the best of the best.  In a year where some old faces reemerged, and some new faces joined the scene, we had a hard time narrowing things down, but these are our favorite Ten Albums by Austin bands in the year 2010.  If you think we’re wrong, we’re cool with you voicing your opinion, but be nice, these are just one group’s opinions.

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Friday Top 5: Top Five Song Spots

In a conversation with one of our local blogger friend’s, Sonic Itch Mike, I decided that I really needed to take a close look at which spots on any given album are the killer spots to put your hits.  Some people think that the immediacy really makes Track 1 the best, but I’m going to look a little closer at this idea.  I mean, there are hundreds of classic albums out there, and surely they ascribe to this great song placement formula.

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